30 August 2013

Bali - Dreamland Beach (a.k.a. New Kuta Beach in Pecatu)

Date of Exploration : 26 Aug 2013

It may come across as a little odd, but I sometimes prefer no-frills accommodations over the pamperings of a luxury hotel when on holiday. The reason? I tend to succumb easily to the seduction of doing nothing at these luxe pads instead of sightseeing and exploring attractions.

If I stayed in a basic hotel that offered nothing more than just a room, I'm motivated to get out there as soon as I dropped my bags. But with posh stays, I become a willing hostage to the beautiful rooms, comfortable beddings, delightful environs and comprehensive range of facilities. Such a 'hostage' situation happened recently during my stay at Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort.

The sun tried to coax me outdoors but I was too caught up with the chillaxing I had going on inside Sheraton. It took determination to leave this cradle of bliss and finally step outside.
The weather on the 4th day of my stay was brilliant, a perfect blue for heading out to the beach but tried as I did with all my might, I couldn't peel myself off the bed. I was contented to just laze the day away under the sheets with a remote control in hand, and later, pasting myself on a sundeck recliner by the pool to soak in the gorgeous Kuta sunset. It's a massage for the mind.

If not for the persistence of Eugene, my travel buddy, I wouldn't have gotten out of the hotel to check out Dreamland Beach. We hadn't planned to go there but Eugene's friend raved that it is the most beautiful beach he has seen. With such a strong recommendation and Eugene's help to unglue me from the bed, we made it to...

... Dreamland Beach!
So, was the beach really such a dream spot to be at or was it better to have stayed in bed? Read on to decide for yourself...

Getting to Dreamland Beach

The best way to get to Dreamland Beach, or to anywhere in Bali is to hop on a cab. We took a Bluebird Taxi (which charges by the meter) from Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort and the ride took an hour.

We were told by hotel staff that the journey should be about 30 minutes and under Rp100,000 but our meter fare recorded around Rp149,000. I'm not sure if the longer time taken and higher fare was due to some traffic jams along the way or that the driver had taken us on a longer ride to jack up the fare. the ride back seemed to be much shorter and metered at around Rp130,000

It is a good idea to book a cab for half a day to go to Dreamland Beach as there didn't seem to be any cab there to take you back. We did encounter an errant driver who offered to take us back to the hotel at Rp200,000 but we've already made arrangements with our cab driver to wait for us and take us back. The wait was charged at Rp30,000 per hour.

Our total fare for the taxi to take us from Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort to Dreamland Beach and back with a 2-hour wait was Rp350,000 (approx. S$41.00).

We arrived at a huge carpark next to a water theme park where the taxi driver waited for us.

From the carpark, we took this colourful van that took us to the mouth of Dreamland Beach. The van plies between the carpark and Dreamland Beach at 10 minutes interval. The ride takes less than 5 minutes. 

The van dropped us off at a flight of steps that leads down to the beach. If our cab driver knew the way, he could've dropped us here instead of the carpark. Here, we encountered an errant driver who offered to take us back to Sheraton for Rp200,000. If we went with him, we wouldn't have to pay our driver the arrival fare and his waiting time. But of course, that would be despicable.

It's a short walk from the van drop-off point to the beach passing a row of stalls in the wall. Bring along beach towels and lots of sunscreen if you don't want to leave looking like a suckling pig.
Capricious Waves & Curvaceous Rocks

Located in Pecatu Graha, a gated community of luxurious residences and hotel developments sprawled across a massive plot of land, Dreamland Beach used to be accessible only to residents in this affluent area. However, developments didn't quite take off and the beach is now opened to the public as well.

At the time of my visit, constructions were still ongoing although a couple of handsome looking apartments and resorts sat amongst very well manicured landscaping. Perhaps in time, the beach may be off limits to hoi polloi and tourists.

Those big blue words indicated that we were at the right place for there's a lack of any official sign. Even our cab driver got lost momentarily trying to get us here. 

A sickly-looking waterway greeted us as we walked down the alley of shops which kinda made me feel icky.

But passed the greenish drain, a turquoise sea throws up frothy surf with loud booms!
Also known as New Kuta Beach, Dreamland Beach was purportedly discovered by a surfer in the 1970s and remains to be a very popular surfing spot as the waves here are wild and unpredictable.

The beach itself is made up of a chain of smooth brown broken up by rock cliffs with a warung (café) providing food and drinks to beach-goers.

View of Dreamland Beach on the slope of a cliff o the left.

The sea rushes to meet the shore.

Due to its secluded location, Dreamland Beach is not as packed as the beaches of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak.

Grandparent and grandchild.

Away from the main section of Dreamland Beach to the right is a quieter stretch of respite.

Not a good idea to wear triangle trunks here as most guys were in surf shorts or box trunks. Felt so self-conscious strolling the beach in my skimpy lycra. Bleah!

A dreamy shot of the beach with a necklace of foam.

Rock boulders turned the beach into an avenue of natural art.

Soaring with the Balinese sunshine and breeze!

Beyond the sandy shoreline is a rocky pavement carved by the waves and carpeted with aquatic greens.

I love how the water washes over the rocks in an eternal caress.

Personally, I found Dreamland Beach to be rather photogenic. I wished I brought my DSLR. Most of the photos in this post were shot with my Casio Exilim ZR1000 compact camera and some with Samsung Galaxy S3.

The pockmarks on the stony shoreline made for some interesting patterns as the water receded. I think this spot would be awesome for sunset shots (provided that the tide is retreating).

Dance of the Indian Ocean.

High waves plus a low camera angle made this shot possible. It's times like this that I wish I have a waterproof camera. Had to run back to shore a couple of times to dry my shooter as the waves were very enthusiastic about being on camera! LOL.

In troubled waters, a float comes in more handy than a bridge.

Was chasing surfers for a long time to get a shot of them in action. It ain't easy with a compact camera!

Stay calm and ride the waves. Shot with Casio Exilim ZR1000.

After shooting in the waters for some time, I decided to call it a day. As I waded towards shore in the turbulent waters, I felt something wrap around my shin and slid between my pinkie toe. I thought it's a strand of seaweed gone astray although I hadn't seen any flotsam at all. Then as I got to shallower waters and lifted my leg, I saw this gold anchor tied to a string. What a pleasant surprise! The sea is so wide and the waves so violent, what an incredible chance that we found each other! I take it as a gift from the sea. I am thankful for this impoosible occurrence.

I have no idea what it is for, maybe it's the identification tag for a surfboard, but it wraps around my wrist nicely as a bracelet. I still can't believe the incredible circumstance in which I found this... Or it found me.

Parting shot of Dreamland Beach as the sun sank behind the day's frolicking clouds. We arrived at the beach at around 3.30pm and left at 6.00pm. I think if we stayed later, the sunset would've been even more jaw-dropping. The beach closes at 7.30pm so I would recommend arriving at 4pm and staying till 7pm for the sunset.
Having spent over 2 hours at the beach taking photos, I wondered if I got out of bed for nothing since I didn't play in the waters at all or laid on the beach to suntan. But looking at the photos, I remembered what a good time I had exploring and photographing the busy waves and calm boulders.

Many people come here to surf, lots more to chill, and some to capture a dream photo. I think Dreamland Beach doesn't disappoint on all fronts but getting here required quite a bit of effort and cost that may be deemed as something not worthwhile by some.

In my opinion, strictly coming from a photographic point of view, I think Dreamland Beach is a photographer's fantasy. Well, at least it was mine. Calling it the most beautiful beach takes some imagination but it is definitely worth getting out of the bed for.

22 August 2013

Taiwan (Yilan) - SanFu Leisure Farm (三富花园农场)

Date of Exploration : 24 - 25 Jun 2013

Scratched into the luscious wilderness of Yilan's hilly outback, SanFu Leisure Farm has what I would call the Snow White effect. Remember the scene where Snow White sang in the woods and butterflies, birds and forest critters gathered around her? Well, it's sorta something like that at SanFu where the abundance of wildlife flutter, hop and call from every corner. And I didn't even have to sing. Or maybe it's BECAUSE I didn't sing.

Blue Tiger and Euploea (紫斑蝶) butterflies fed and danced around a shrub right in front of our accommodation block. There were so many, I could just pick them off the bush like living petals.
We arrived at SanFu Leisure Farm at about 9pm to spend the first night of our week-long exploration of Taiwan's farm-stays. As soon as we arrived, we were whisked off on a night tour of the farm to meet some of its nocturnal residents.

For the lot of us city dwellers who count encountering an occasional cockroach at home or cat at the void deck as being an adventure with Singapore's wildlife, it wasn't long before shrieks and squeals escaped us as we were introduced to exotic frogs and bugs foraging under the cover of darkness.

Our guide enthusiastically welcomed us with a small snake he caught wandering onto the farm's reception porch. Even if creepy crawlies are not your thing, his passion and enthusiasm about them would make you a convert.   

During the tour, we were introduced to insects and amphibians as they were found in their natural habitat. One of the really interesting bugs (not pictured here) was this green stick-like insect that emits a smell that resembles ginseng when under threat. The smell is supposed to be offensive to predators but loved by humans. And there was a species of spider whose web is not sticky on the frame threads but extremely sticky on the radius threads. It also eats its web every night and spins a new one for each daily hunt. 

Up to 60% of Taiwan's frog species can be found at SanFu Leisure Farm along with a wide variety of toad species. This toad squirts a jet of fluid from its parotoid gland when it is mad. So handle with care! Or not at all.
Being someone who fascinates easily with the breathing creations of nature, I totally enjoyed the brief tour and getting a first glimpse of the premises. I couldn't wait for daybreak to check out more that the farm has to unfurl under the sun!

On an Ecological Crusade

Situated near Renshan Botanical Garden (Taiwan's National Botanic Garden of Yilan County), SanFu is bequeathed with pristine ecological conditions which the farm vehemently protects. No pesticides, insecticides or chemical additives are used on its crops for pest control so that the natural ecosystems remain untainted by synthetic products.

An example of pest control without the use of insecticide is the ingenious deployment of spawning pots all around the farm. These pots are filled with stagnant water to attract mosquitoes to lay their eggs. But the owners have placed guppies into these pots which feed on the wigglers, thereby decreasing the number of adult mosquitoes at the farm.

Entrance of SanFu Leisure Farm.
Apart from opening a window to eco-friendly and organic farming methods as well as providing ample opportunities to meet an assortment of butterflies, caterpillars, spiders, beetles, frogs, and birds, Sanfu has a restaurant that serves up healthy farm-fresh cuisines and activity centers to wield your creativity on DIY handicrafts, enjoy the amiable antics of parrots and parakeets, or just sip purple coffee (that's right, purple coffee!) by a koi pond.

For the more adventurous, go on a hike around the farm, indulge in macro photography of stunning insect specimens, or venture out to the nearby Renshan Botanical Garden, Shin-Liao Waterfall, May-Hua Lake, Luodong Forestry Culture Garden as well as Luodong Night Market. As my stay was very short, I did not get to check out these other sights or know how close they are to the farm but I guess you can enquire and arrange transportation through SanFu.

Although I was rather tired from the flight the previous day and the excitement of my first farm-stay, I woke up extra early to explore more of SanFu as my appetite to meet more of its natural inhabitants was whetted during the night excursion.

While the farm has a huge landscaped pond and accommodation that's rather done up, most parts of the premises are left pretty much untouched so wandering beyond the built environment, dirt paths covered with fallen leaves and untamed forestry take over.

A huge pond near the entrance to SanFu Leisure Farm extends a picturesque handshake to welcome visitors.

A mini waterfall streams pass a stone path while signs reminds visitors to be mindful of animals roaming the farm's grounds. 

There were quite a number of ducks and geese running free in the farm. They minded their own business most of the time but do watch out for duck poo that littered pathways around the pond.

A pair of elegant black swan was spotted at a pond near the farm's main restaurant.

My stomach growled when I took this shot. I shall call this feather dish... Roast.

This handsome blackie is Officer Kuro, SanFu's resident watchdog.

One of the owners of SanFu hand-raised parrots, parakeets and lories as personal pets and show birds to delight visitors.

This white macaw parrot was a little hostile initially and kept pecking at my fingers when I tried to touch it but my persistence convinced it of my sincerity to make a connection. After it got on my hand, it didn't want to go back to its metal stand. Aww... I would've brought this new friend home.

And this is the Purple Coffee that SanFu is famous for. Actually, the coffee is just like any regular roast but the top cream made with magenta sweet potato added that touch of whims.

A rustic leaves-paved path circles the farm for that enchanted forest escapade. Wear insect repellent though as the mossies here who survived the breeding pots are commando-trained. 

Environs and discoveries around the farm.

My search for something unusual amongst the green was rewarded by this brilliantly variegated spider with mean spiky hair. So beautiful!

Having shot quite a collection of orb weaver spiders, this is one of my favourite as the spider seem to hang in mid-air between the web of power transmission towers. This shot was taken with my mobile phone camera.

A Mapwing Butterfly extracting moisture from the ground. We were told that on certain days, huge gatherings of butterflies can be spotted around the grounds of SanFu drinking their fill.

Just learnt something really interesting... The Euploea Butterfly (commonly called the Common Crow) 'flowers' from its behind when it feels threatened.

A butterfly that farts flowers... How bizarre!

And when the butterfly fails to scare its threat away with the fanny blooms, it plays dead because no predators like to eat a carcass. When it detects that it is no longer under threat, it suddenly wakes up and flies off. Amazing!

Reception annex of SanFu Leisure Farm. This is where the check-on for accommodation happens.

Inside the reception is a gift shop that is stocked with frogs and owls memorabilia.

She's the daughter of SanFu Leisure Farm's current owner and the successor of her family's business.

The reception also houses a few benches where DIY activities take place. We got to try our hands at making a notebook. This Hello Kitty rip-off is my choice for the cover. Cute hor?

Kawaii neh! I meant the notebook. LOL

The accommodation block is situated higher up the hill behind the reception annex. 

An attempt at country revival was apparent at the entrance foyer of the accommodation block.

My room... And I hope I won't be an owl for the night (which would meant that the room is uncomfortable)!

View of the room at the entrance. Looks spacious with cute wallpaper.

Interior of the room (got flatscreen TV wor) and the toilet-cum-shower.

The view that greeted me at daybreak. A duet by crickets and cicadas told me bedtime stories while birdsongs serenaded my wake, some think it's noise, I think they are more interesting to listen to than the traffic outside my window back home.
Having not stayed in any farm before, my first experience at SanFu Leisure Farm went really well. There's a good mix of rustic laid-backness with decent comfort while Mother Nature held me snugly in her palm.

SanFu, which means "3 riches", promises a rich encounter with nature, rich appreciation of our environment, and rich experience of hospitality.
We've spent barely 24 hours at SanFu Leisure Farm but already I felt that city life was a poisoned apple I've bitten into for too long. I breathed easier with the country air and my mind began to unclutter, filling instead with the simple joy of watching butterflies dancing in the air, and the delight in care-free tranquility.

Getting to SanFu Leisure Farm

There are 2 ways to get to the farm from Taipei Taoyuan Airport :

1. From Taipei Taoyuan Airport, take the Kuo-Kuang Bus to Taipei Bus Station (Gate 13-14 at 4th Floor) and take the Kamalan Bus to Luodong Train Station. From Luodong, take a taxi to SanFu Leisure Farm (approx. 15 minutes).

2.  From Taipei Taoyuan Airport, take the CityAir Bus to Taipei City Hall Bus Station (Gate 12-16 at 1st Floor) and take the Capital Bus to Luodong Train Station. From Luodong, take a taxi to SanFu Leisure Farm (approx. 15 minutes)

CTC Holidays provides an affordable 2 nights' stay for 2 persons with return transfers from Luodong Train Station, daily breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner, as well as a DIY activity starting from just S$338.

SanFu Leisure Farm
Address : No. 82, Lane 161, Xinliao 2nd Road, Zhongshan Village, Dongshan Township, Yilan County
Tel : +886-3-9588690
Website : www.sanfufarm.com.tw
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...